September 06, 2017 08:15 AM
With federal disaster reserves running out, the House is swiftly moving to pass President Donald Trump's request for a $7.9 billion first installment of relief for victims of Harvey.
GOP leaders also hope to use the urgent Harvey aid bill to solve a far more vexing issue: Increasing the U.S. debt limit to permit the government to borrow freely again to cover its bills.
RELATED: Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean Islands as Category 5 Storm
This week's measure is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish reserves in advance of Irma. Far more money will be needed once more complete estimates are in this fall, and Harvey could end up exceeding the $110 billion government cost of Hurricane Katrina.
The Harvey aid bill is the first major item on a packed fall agenda. GOP leaders such as Speaker Paul Ryan hope it will allow lawmakers to quickly take on the more challenging job of increasing the government's $19.9 trillion borrowing cap. That plan was gaining momentum Tuesday, with even some top House conservatives sounding resigned to the idea.
RELATED: Relief Comes Slowly for Coastal Towns Recovering From Harvey
"I think it's a terrible idea," said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who conceded that conservatives were getting outmaneuvered.
RELATED: Working Poor on Minden Street Exhausted after Harvey
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that increased Harvey costs show the importance of acting swiftly to increase the government's debt cap to make sure there's enough borrowed cash to pay out the surge in disaster aid.
"In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large costs of storm recovery," McConnell said.
Analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, say Harvey aid wouldn't cause a cash crunch for weeks.
Democrats recognize that their votes are needed to help GOP leaders pass any debt limit increase but they aren't threatening to withhold those votes.
"We're dealing with all these things at this point in time anyway," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York. "Democrats have said we're for a clean debt ceiling and we're also for making sure the people from Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere who've been severely damaged by these storms — with one more on the way as well — that their needs need to be addressed as well."
The Associated Press
Updated: September 06, 2017 08:15 AM
Created: September 06, 2017 08:05 AM
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)